Stephen Horenstein
Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

The sad future of Jerusalem?

Collage design, Stephen Horenstein and Ruthe Bensabbath

Aside from the transient annoying sounds coming from afar, this day is scrubbed. Light blue, tan and sensuous green are now blocked by prison bars. The beginnings of mold on the next building’s wall harmonize with the machine sounds, squawking foreboding songs that never retreat, never change. Apparently this is the price of progress in an ancient city now inundated by massive building and greed. Our once quiet streets are filled with garbage sounds while clear mountain air has been inundated by building dust, asbestos flakes, and “bad breath”.

Alas, the identity of our province is in question, with quaint sensuous corners deformed into pot holes, dust storms and looming high rises which, like giants eating snails, are slowing doing their fox trots in the winds. Soon we will not see the sun, though if we are voyeurs we can be treated to the dozens of exposed skyscraper window dramas displayed night and day before our bloodshot eyes. We are told this is progress. And yet we have become like any other city built from squares, and rectangles, avoiding any semblance of organic curves or gentle zigzags as found in local green foliage (or rather, what’s left of it). We are polluted through sight, sound, touch, taste and spirit. We are like fresh salmon swimming upstream only to find a gigantic pit, filled with tar and feathers along with all the accoutrements of the the building profession.

Our souls have been sold for us to the Mobis of the world (see Vittorio De Sica’s brilliant film “Miracle in Milan”) or other rich dudes who say “yes, yes of course”, but ultimately do what they do, i.e. they “finagle the bagel”.

Meanwhile, here in noontime Jerusalem transient sounds have reached a decibel level dangerous to the human psyche. Like invisible smoke, the fumes reach us in  torturous monotony like toy jumping jacks who know only two movements, in and out. We have air conditioners with purifiers which can allow us to breathe. We do NOT  have sound purifiers to allow us our privacy and restoration of inner peace.

The cutting down of trees in Jerusalem in preference for huge tall monstrosities has become the latest popular sport. A while ago I protested (alone) in the street to no avail. The trees amongst us cringe in fear. I feel them, do you? I can see their movements in angular nervousness. Can you?

The noise has momentarily stopped. A hole has opened up to heaven. Recently the Dalai Lama was asked “ Your excellency, what do you wish people for a New Year”. He said, “I wish them peace of mind”.

On this New Year, I too wish all of us peace of mind. I wish YOU, the reader, luck in navigating the obstacle course laid out before you. I pray for the preservation of Jerusalem as we have known it. I curse the buildings in the name of progress, but actually in the name of cruel profit.

Who is able to turn the tides? Or are we heading smack-dab into an endless tsunami, burying all we know that is heroic, epic and wondrous?

The author demonstrating for the survival of Jerusalem’s trees (Photo by Sara Horenstein)


About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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